BOSTON (CBS) – Christmas is 36 days away and the merchants are hoping the surveys are correct and you will be shopping with enthusiasm.

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How much do you plan to spend on gifts this year? How much can you afford to spend on gifts this year without going into serious debt?

Once you figure that out the rest is fun. Create a list of who you are planning on shopping for. Then go over that list! Anyone you can eliminate?

Do you and your neighbors need to exchange gifts? What about your son-in-law’s parents? This tradition started innocently, the year they were here for Christmas and you wanted them to have something to open Christmas morning.

Every year since then you send them something from one of the food catalogs. You have been doing this for 20 years! Do you even know if they like smoked cheese?

With your list in hand put a dollar amount next to the name and then what you want to purchase for each person. Research the cost of each item. Then start shopping.

When you are out and caught up in the spirit of the Holidays, it is so easy to overspend. And it is easy to overspend using the Internet as well. They make it so easy! And free shipping suckers us in!

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When you head out to the mall try leaving your credit cards at home and just taking cash with you. Once the cash is gone, you are done shopping! If you have the discipline to do this, you will definitely stay within your budget.

If you are using your credit cards or checkbook, keep a running total of what you are spending as you shop. Put the amount next to the person’s name. Again, once you reach your limits you’re done!

And beware of CSS, Christmas Shopping Syndrome, that’s where you head out again because you don’t think you have bought enough and you come home with more stuff!

One more thing: A few more words of advice about shopping: Put on comfortable shoes and go shopping by yourself. Do not take the kids, your mother, your friends or your sister. That may include your spouse also.

They will talk you into too many things. You will be much more efficient alone and there will be no distractions! I do often take my husband because shopping with him is sort of like hunting with the game warden.

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You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

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